CORVALLIS – The Ridgefield Raptors’ season came to a sudden halt in the West Coast League South Division Championship against the Corvallis Knights, yet they stood on the Goss Stadium field well after the game ended, taking in the final moments of a memorable summer.
They didn’t want it to end.
Corvallis, the No. 1 seed in the WCL playoffs, jumped on Ridgefield for five runs across the first two innings and held the visitors in check for a 5-2 win, giving the Knights a shot at a sixth straight WCL title when they host the Bellingham Bells on Monday.
Ridgefield, despite taking an early 1-0 lead, went scoreless for the ensuing six innings until a Riley McCarthy RBI double in the eighth.
The Raptors’ elimination from the playoffs brought an end to their most successful season to date since their inception in 2019. They had a franchise best 32 wins in the regular season and put together their deepest postseason run to date with a series sweep of the Portland Pickles in the divisional round.
“Obviously you need some camaraderie amongst the guys, and we had it,” Ridgefield head coach Chris Cota said. “Really in all three years we haven’t had bad groups, but these guys were special, man, I’m telling you.”
It was no coincidence that this year’s group also came together off the field and enjoyed the many hours spent together over two-and-a-half months.
“You truly never know what it’s going to be like when you get these guys from all sorts of different schools and backgrounds,” McCarthy said. “The way this group came together was really special. I think there’s a true love between everybody on this team. I love all these guys, and especially the group that stayed together for the whole summer and battled it out, we got really tight. I made a bunch of brothers for the rest of my life.”
Also telling for Ridgefield this season compared to previous ones was the number of players who stayed from start to finish. All nine starters in the Raptors’ order, Jake Tsukada, Travis Welker, Trent Prokes, Safea Mauai, Doyle Kane, McCarthy, Mikey Kane, Isaac Lovings and Austin Caviness were on the roster from the beginning of the season.
That gave Ridgefield some added continuity heading into the playoff run, whereas last season the roster was thinned out by August when the Raptors were swept by the Knights in the opening round.
“Last year we had quite a few guys leave because they were done playing. We came into a playoff game here last year kind of undermanned. We had a fighting chance tonight. We just had some hiccups.”
Like last year’s season-ending loss to the Knights in Corvallis, Kiko Romero and Briley Knight led an early Corvallis surge that had Ridgefield playing catch-up. Romero hit a bases-loaded 2 RBI single in the first, and in between a Tyler Quinn RBI base hit, Knight tacked on another two-run single in the second against Ridgefield starter Nate Weeldreyer, who was replaced by Eastyn Culp after Knight’s at-bat.
“That’s a real good team over there,” Cota said, “and any time you spot them four runs, it’s a tough road.”
A fleeting lead – Ridgefield got a brief taste of the lead in the top of the first inning with a Safea Mauai RBI single to score Jake Tsukada.
Early exit – On the heels of a first inning with three runs surrendered to Corvallis, Ridgefield starter Nate Weeldreyer gave up a bases-loaded, two-run single to Briley Knight in the second. With 5-1 deficit, the Raptors opted to bring on reliever Eastyn Culp for Weeldreyer, ending a 1 1/3 inning outing.
Putting up a fight – With two outs in the eighth, Safea Mauai singled into left and Doyle Kane got a fly ball to drop fair down the right field line. That set up McCarthy for an RBI double off the left field wall to score Mauai. Mikey Kane flew out in foul territory on the next at-bat to end the inning.
Briley Knight – The Corvallis native and University of Portland player went 1-for-2 with two RBI.
Kiko Romero – The Arizona product hit a two-run single as part of a three-run first inning.
Riley McCarthy – McCarthy (Mountain View/University of Portland) went 2-for-4 with an RBI double that brought the Raptors within three runs in the eighth.
5 2/3 – Scoreless innings thrown by Ridgefield reliever Eastyn Culp after coming on midway through the second with Corvallis already ahead 5-1.
2015 – The last year a team other than the Corvallis Knights won the WCL Championship. With five straight league championships (2016-19, 2021) Corvallis will go for six on Monday against the Bellingham Bells.
73 – Days since Ridgefield’s season started on June 1. In the time since, they played 57 WCL games in 10 cities between Oregon, Washington and Canada.
CORVALLIS 5, RIDGEFIELD 2
Ridgefield 100 000 010—2 10 0
Corvallis 320 000 00x—5 7 1
Pitching – Nate Weeldreyer 1.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 0 K, 4 BB; Eastyn Culp 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 K, 4 BB; David Allen 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 K, 0 BB. Highlights – Jake Tsukada 2-4, R; Safea Mauai 2-4, R, RBI; Doyle Kane 2-4; Riley McCarthy 2-4, 2B, RBI; Mikey Kane 1-4; Isaac Lovings 1-4.
Pitching – Duke Brotherton 5 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 K, 1 BB; Sean Wiese 4 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 K, 0 BB. Highlights – Jonah Advincula 2-4, 2 R; Logan Johnstone R; Briley Knight 1-3, R, 2 RBI; Kiko Romero 1-4, R, 2 RBI; Tyler Quinn 1-3; Mason Le 2-4; Spencer Scott R.